Edinburgh is a wonderful city and offers everything you could wish for; a beautiful old town, a vibrant student life with many pubs and bars, green spaces to relax, sandy beaches to take walks and hills to admire the fantastic view over the city. However, sometimes on sunny days I feel the urge to travel and see as much as possible of Scotland, knowing that I’ll be in this beautiful country for only one year to do my Master’s degree. Unarguably the most popular tour from Edinburgh is the one to the Highlands (Check out Sofia’s blog post about the Highlands). However, there are many more fascinating spots close to Edinburgh which are worth visiting. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you can get there by train or bus and whether you would like to see stunning nature, scenic Scottish seaside towns or fairy-tale castles, the surroundings of Scotland’s capital offer it all!
North Berwick and Tantallon Castle – The costal getaway
Just a 30 minute train ride from Edinburgh Waverley station lies North Berwick, a quaint Scottish town along the seaside. North Berwick is home of the Scottish Seabird Centre, a museum which allows you to observe local birds including puffins and catamarans, through live cameras on the local islands. You should check the wildlife calendar on the website as different wildlife can be seen at different times of the year. While you are there, why not take one of the sea life boat tours offered from April to September. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to spot seals, dolphins and whales!
Located right on the sea, North Berwick has – who would have guessed - many fish & chips shops and ice cream parlours. Once you’ve returned from your walk from Tantallon castle you’ll be happier than ever to indulge in a nice portion of fish & chips and an ice cream. The walk to Tantallon Castle takes approximately one hour but you can also reach the castle by bus. Check the timetable as the bus runs only a few times a day. However, I would strongly recommend the walk to the castle as it will bring you along beautiful green golf courses overlooking the sea. Here you will be able to enjoy fantastic views of the Firth of Forth and the Bass Rock, an island which is home to the world’s largest northern gannet colony. In Latin this bird is called “Sula Bassana” and got its name from the Island.
The medieval Tantallon Castle was one of the last truly great castles built in Scotland in the 13th century. Perched on a fascinating cliff edge it is not surprising that it has become a popular filming location. Once you’ve climbed the castle towers the view will take your breath away and I guarantee you that the long walk to the castle is worth it!
Stirling Castle – Immerse yourself into Scottish history
Stirling is approximately one hour away from Edinburgh by train. Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most important sites and was the residence of the Stewart Kings and Queens. Today it represents a symbol of Scottish independence. Its position on top of a volcanic rock in the centre of the town is impressive and offers great views. In the distance you’ll spot the William Wallace monument which commemorates the victory over the English. Included in the ticket price are guided tours which I highly recommend, together with costumed staff playing the role of servants, court officials and maids of honours who lively explain life within the castle walls. This experience allows you to travel back in time and learn a great deal about Scottish history.
St Andrews – Sightseeing and fish & chips
A one hour and twenty minutes train ride away from Edinburgh on the Scottish east coast lies St Andrews, famous for its historic university (which is the oldest in Scotland) along with its internationally known golf courses. The coastal town is the perfect day trip to do with your friends. You can stroll through the medieval streets, visit St Andrews Cathedral and walk up St Rule’s Tower located within ruins offering stunning panoramic views. There is also a lovely seaside path where you can enjoy the sea air. Again, don’t miss the legendary fish & chips. In St Andrews you’ll find Cromars, voted best fish & chips store in Scotland in 2016 and 2018!
Cramond Island – Be aware of the tide
Cramond Island is an island in the Firth of Forth. You can reach Cramond Beach by bus from the city centre of Edinburgh in approximately one hour. At low tide you can reach the small island by foot and collect sea shells. The island is connected to the mainland through a causeway with concrete pylons on one side of the path which were built during the Second World War as a boat barrier and offer a striking sight. On the island you’ll discover the remains of a WWII military bunker and you can spot the surrounding towns and islands. It’s a nice place to take a walk, read a book or have a picnic. Don’t forget to check the tide schedule - unless you want to swim back to the Beach (not recommended).